Prime Minister and Helsinki Mayor bicker over COVID-19 measures

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin speaks during a government's press conference on the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in Helsinki, Finland. [EPA-EFE/KIMMO BRANDT]

After the fallout between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori had a spat over who takes responsibility for ordering coronavirus restrictions and guiding the population through a pandemic.

After Marin’s government outlined the principles according to which sports, leisure activities and other public events should be restricted or halted and expected local authorities to implement concrete measures, Vapaavuori refused to comply.

The mayor accused the government of shying away from difficult decisions and leaving the Helsinki Metropolitan Area to take unpopular measures, adding that precise guidance should come from above. Vapaavuori also warned of dire economic ramifications.

While the feud has ended in a stalemate and gyms, restaurants and cinemas remain open to a large extent, coronavirus infections continue to rise in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

This has been a long time coming, the COVID-19 situation being the tip of the iceberg.

The capital strongly opposes the government’s social and healthcare reform, claiming it puts the area in the underdog position compared to the rest of the country.

The fact that Helsinki’s mayor is a member of the right-wing National Coalition Party, while Finland’s prime minister is a social democrat does not make things easier.

(Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)

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